STU student to launch recycled clothing start-up

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated Tyrique Hamil was already working with Planet Hatch to build his start-up. In fact, he is planning to reach out to them. He also did not partner with Planet Hatch at the Innovation Jam. He was judged by a panel that included a representative from Planet Hatch. Innovation jam participants were solving problems The Ville faced, not Planet Hatch. We regret the error.

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After attending the Venture for Canada ​Innovation Jam in November 2019, third-year St. Thomas University student Tyrique Hamil was inspired to create a business plan for a start-up close to his heart.

Innovation Jam is a problem-solving event that pairs students with Fredericton businesses to solve a problem that local business is currently facing. This year’s business was The Ville, which is a “holistic community centre that promotes health, sustainability, and partnership” according to their website.

“I remember sitting there and asking myself, ‘What’s a problem that we face on a daily basis that needs to be addressed,” he said.

“And then I thought ‘Why don’t we shred clothes?’ and everyone in my group was like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool idea.’”

Bring It Back is the name of Hamil’s start-up. He said its main focus is to collect old clothing items and sort through them to see which ones are wearable. Any wearable clothes will be given back to thrift stores like Value Village. Worn-down clothes will be shredded down and turned into cotton. The material will be sold to apparel companies.

After being inspired by Innovation Jam, his friend Khanh Do encouraged him to bring the idea to the BMO Financial Group Apex Business Plan Competition. The event was held at the University of New Brunswick’s Wu Conference Centre on Jan. 23 and 24.

Hamil said his team dropped out of the Apex competition last minute, so he presented alone.

During the competition, he presented his business plan to two panels and investors from the Bank of Montreal. Funding was awarded based on the business model.

The competition is open to all post-secondary students and recent graduates.

Hamil said he competed against two companies that were already profitable and didn’t end up winning the funding.

“It was really intense.”

Still, he wasn’t discouraged and listened to every suggestion the judges gave him.

“One of the things they said was ‘Develop this over the length of the next year, come back to us next year and they’ll try to have more funding available,’” he said.

“They want to see that you have something in production and have started selling to suppliers already.”

Now, Hamil is working at developing partnerships with local clothing brands like East Coast Apparels. He wants to work with the earth science department at UNB to ensure the shredded material will be sustainable.

“One of the problems facing the recycling industry right now is that a lot of items, like recyclable, paper straws, don’t have a long shelf life,” he said.

“We want to get more raw material into a place where it lasts for 16 months.”

Hamil said he plans to look into applying for growth and training opportunities offered by Planet Hatch to help move his business forward.

The Aquinian reached out to Planet Hatch but did not receive a response before deadline.

Hamil, who is double honouring in economics and international relations, said he wants to host a clothing drive for Fredericton soon and its surrounding areas to donate used clothes. He also said he’d like to get other communities involved by partnering with other universities in the province.

Hamil said he is developing his website within the next couple of months. By the end of this academic year, he hopes to launch the business officially to the campus community.

“It’s gonna be something groundbreaking in Fredericton and Canada as a whole because no one is doing it in Canada.”

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